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CICERO ON OLD AGE 



CICERO 
ON OLD AGE 



Translated from the Latin 
inti English Verse 



BY 

SIR ROBERT ALLISON 

AUTHOR OF ' FIVE PLAYS OF PLAUTUS ' 



With Introduction and Notes 



LONDON 

ARTHUR L. HUMPHREYS 
187 Piccadilly, W. 
1916 



A.4S(o35S 



' Oh thou all eloquent, whose mighty mind 
Streams from the depths of ages on mankind, 
Streams like the day — who angel-like has shed 
Thy full effulgence on the hoary head 
Speaking in Cato's venerable voice, 
" Look up and faint not — faint not but rejoice ! " ' 

5. Rogers on Human Life. 



INTRODUCTION 

CICERO, in spite of all his detractors, must 
ever remain one of the most famous and 
outstanding of all the great men who adorned 
the long history of the Roman State. Her 
greatest orator in troubled and eventful days — 
one, indeed, of the great orators of the world 
— the statesman who saved his country from the 
very real dangers of the conspiracy of Catiline 
— the polished writer whose numerous works 
tell of his literary industry, and who through 
them, in the words of Dr. Merivale, 'has made 
converts to the belief in virtue, and has disciples 
in the wisdom of love' — the man who in his 
letters has given to us his inmost thoughts on 
men and on events, letters which though in- 
tended only for the eyes of those to whom they 
were addressed, reveal to the world a cultivated, 
attractive, and aifectionate character — such an 
one must always be sure in an unusual degree 
of the love and admiration of posterity. His 
treatises, it is said, are not original. He made 
for them no such claim. They are, he said, but 
translations. But, such as they are, they have 
charmed the world by their pure and matchless 



INTRODUCTION 

style, and of them Mr. Strachan-Davidson de- 
clares that ' if we desired to decide what ancient 
writings have most directly influenced the 
modern world, the award must probably go in 
favour of Plutarch's lives and the philosophical 
works of picero.' Plutarch tefls a story how in 
later days Augustus Caesar found one of his 
grandsons with a work of Cicero in his hands. 
The lad was frightened, and hid the book under 
his gown ; but Caesar took it from him, and read 
the most part of jt standing : then he gave it 
bapk to him, and said, ' This was a great orator, 
my boy, a great orator and one who loved his 
country well.' This is picero 's true epitaph — the 
one he would most have liked to have inscribed 
upon his tomb. Mommsen has endeavoured, 
indeed, to paint him as a mere trimmer, anxious 
only to be on the safe side. Mr. Froude de- 
nounces the way in which at one time he heaped 
his flatteries on Caesar, and at another rejoiced 
over his assassination. Neither of these esti- 
mates is quite fair. Cicero lived in difficult 
and dangerous days, when various and conflictr 
ing elements were surging round him, and to 
choose what was best was difficult ; but there 
is no doubt he sincerely wished to maintain 
the greatness of the Republic, whose triumphs 
he had shared, and that old order of things to 
which he was so devotedly attached. But to 



INTRODUCTION 

which of the various competitors for power 
would it be safe to entrust the task? on whom 
could he rely? Csesar — Antony — Pompey— 
Octayius — he looked to eaph in turn: disap- 
pointment dogged his steps. Each in turn was 
found to he seeking only for absolute power, 
and caring nothing for the prosperity and 
honour of the State. After the death of Caesar, 
when he found that, though the tyrant was 
gone, the tyranny remained, he still maintained 
the struggle, and the last year of his life was 
illumined by the splendid series of his orations 
against Antony — which, in allusion to those of 
Demosthenes against Philip, he termed ' the 
Philippics.' He now hoped for salvation to the 
State from Octavius ; but once more he mis- 
judged his man, and the staff on which he 
trusted proved a bruised reed and pierced his 
hand. Antony and Octavius united for the 
moment, and one of the terms of union was 
the proscription and death of Cicero. He died 
a not ignoble death at the hands of hired as- 
sassins. Perhaps he had no wish to live to see 
the failure of his schemes. ' Brutus,' he says in 
a letter to Atticus, 'is thinking of going into 
exile : I have in my mind's eye a readier haven 
for a man of my age : but death, exile, or any- 
thing is better than submission.' He might have 
escaped had he chosen ; but preferred as he said 



INTRODUCTION 

to die in the country which he had often saved. 
The last two years of his life indeed were full of 
trouble, not only on public, but private grounds 
as well. The divorce from his wife Terentia — 
the death of his darling daughter Tullia— the 
miserable career of his son — the unfortunate 
issue of his second marriage — all these troubles 
fell upon him in a single year. What wonder 
that he turned to divine philosophy for comfort 
in the storm ? Immediately after the fatal ides 
of March, 44 B.C., when Caesar fell, he retreated to 
his villas in the country, and devoted himself, 
full of doubt and disenchantment as he was on 
public matters, to the writing of some of his 
most famous works — the De NaturA Deorum, 
the De Divinatione, the De Fato, the De Offwiis. 
To these he added his treatise on Old Age, and 
that on Friendship. Almost despairing for the 
moment of the State, he seeks to do what little 
good he can by laying down rules of conduct 
which may be followed by those who are to 
succeed him in later and he hopes happier days. 
'What greater or better service,' he says in one 
of his treatises written at this time, 'can we 
render to the State, than to teach and instruct 
the young, and especially in these days when 
youth has fallen into such decay, as to call for 
all our efforts to restrain and control it?' His 
dialogue on Old Age has always been considered 



INTRODUCTION 

one of his most charming and interesting works. 
On old age itself every man probably holds 
opinions of his own, formed according to his 
experience and his temperament. We may 
almost say, 'Quot senes, tot sententise.' There 
are those no doubt who, obliged to withdraw 
by lessening strength from the activities they 
once delighted in, and having no resources in 
reserve to take their place, feel life a bore. 
There are others who are saddened because 
a life of pleasure is no longer possible; they 
are soured and discontented because they cherish 
in advancing years the ideas that were natural 
to their prime. Others become morose and 
grumbling because the ideals of their youth 
have not been realised, and the hope of fruition 
has now passed beyond recall. Others have 
attained the honours which they thought should 
have been their own. The knowledge fills them 
with disgust : they linger on the stage disap- 
pointed and annoyed, in the expressive phrase 
of Plautus, mere ' Acheruntici,' ' with one leg in 
the grave.' Cicero's reply to all these grumblers 
is, at any rate, a sane and healthy one. A happy 
old age, h e lays down, follows a well-spent youth. 
We must learn, he says, to adapt ourselves to 
the surroundings in which we find ourselves, 
and fortunate shall we be if we have trained 
our minds to pursuits and occupations in which 



INTRODUCTION 

we can still, in spite of lessened strength, indulge. 
The mind need not of necessity share the infirmi- 
ties of the body. Cicero himself had now crossed 
the border which according to the Roman ideas 
ushered in old age. He was sixty-three. Yet he 
shows no signs of it. His literary activity, his 
interest in affairs, his brightness and vivacity 
are as great as ever. For the moment his plans 
of reformation in the State had broken down — 
troubles in his own family crowd upon him — but 
not for a moment does he allow his mental 
activity to unbend. Like Milton in his blindness : 

' Though fallen on evil days, 
On evil days though fallen, and evil tongues, 
In darkness and with dangers compassed round 
And solitude,' 

he does not abandon himself to despair. He 
finds like him his refuge in divine philosophy, 
and with him he cries : 

' So much the rather, thou celestial light, 
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers 
Irradiate.' 

This is indeed the true philosophy of life. 
When Sir Walter Scott was dying, he thus ad- 
dressed his son-in-law who was standing by his 
bed : ' Be a good man, for nothing else can bring 
you any comfort when you come to lie here : 
be virtuous, be religious, be good.' 



INTRODUCTION 

This is to live the well-spent life, which, 
according to Cicero, is the prelude of a contented 
old age. In another place, Sir Walter emphasises 
the same note. 'Whatever,' he says, 'may be 
alleged to the contrary, to each duty performed 
there is assigned a degree of mental peace and 
high consciousness of honourable exertion cor- 
responding to the difficulty of the task accom- 
plished. That rest of body which succeeds to 
hard and industrious toil is not to be compared 
to the repose which the spirit enjoys under 
similar circumstances.' These were the principles 
on which he had himself acted in his life, and so 
when in later years disaster came upon him — 
disaster that would have crushed another man — 
he was able, in spite of it, to continue his literary 
work, and write the romances that have charmed 
the world. And not unlike Sir Walter's was 
Cicero's experience of life. He had touched on 
the one side and the other the farthest extremes 
of fate. The first of orators, he is called, without 
any advantages of birth or position, to the highest 
office in the State at the early age of forty-two. 
There he saves his country in its hour of greatest 
danger, is saluted by an admiring Senate as the 
Father of his country, and receives the honour of 
a public thanksgiving never before accorded to a 
civilian. A few years pass, and he is condemned 
for the very actions for which he had been 



INTRODUCTION 

praised ; banished, and forbidden to come within 
four hundred miles of the Borne he loved, his 
house on the Palatine thrown down, his favourite 
villas wrecked, destroyed, and trampled under 
foot. Like Dante he is an exile from all he most 
desired and loved. A year elapses and he is re- 
called. The desolate wanderer is welcomed back 
by a still grateful country. From Brundisium, 
where he landed, to the Porta Capena where he 
entered Borne, his journey is a continued ovation. 
Deputations crowd upon him from every town 
and village. The Senate comes forth along the 
famous Appian road to receive him, the whole 
population deserts the city and chokes the roads 
and the adjoining fields. That one day, he de- 
clares, was the equivalent of immortality. A 
few more years of public service at home and 
abroad follow — and then once more Cicero, 
growing old at the age of sixty-three, sees 
danger to the State. Ambitious and turbulent 
men are endeavouring to subvert their country's 
liberties. Caesar's death has not preserved them. 
And so once more he determines to go back 
into private life. He turns with avidity to his 
literary pursuits, and writes, among others, his 
treatise on old age, which I have ventured to 
produce in a new form. Once again at the end 
of six months the clouds, as he thinks, lift, and 
he comes back in the hope that he may still be 



INTRODUCTION 

able to save his country by his counsels and 
advice. 'A crowded hour of glorious life' re- 
mains, in which he writes, or delivers, his 
philippics against Antony; but once more he 
fails, and falls by the assassin's hand. There 
was dignity in his end, and though his political 
aspirations came to nought, he remains, in the 
words of Augustus, 'one who loved his country' 
well.' ' He was,' says Livy, ' a great and memor- 
able man, and it would need a Cicero to 
pronounce his eulogium.' Catullus, the greatest 
lyrical poet of Rome, does homage to Cicero's 
eloquence : 

'Tully, of all most eloquent, 
From Romulus who claim descent, 
That are to-day or in the past have been 
Or in the future ages may be seen : 
Great thanks to thee Catullus gives, 
Worst poet in the world that lives: 
Worst poet he of all who play the part 
As thou by far the best of pleaders art.' 

Such was the verdict of two of his literary 
contemporaries— a verdict endorsed by the best 
representatives of literature in every succeeding 
age. 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 



* A H, Titus, if in ought I may avail I. 

A To help and soothe the care which vexes introduc- 

you tion and 

And tears your heart, what shall be my reward P' 1 Dedication. 
For so I may address you in the words to Atticus. 

Which he, ' the man, whose worldly wealth was 

small, 
But yet was great in heart,' did one day use 
To old Flaminius, though I know full well 
You are not, like Flaminius, still assailed 
By cares, both day and night. I recognise 

1 These lines, which are put into the mouth of a peasant who 
offers to act as a guide to the Roman army in its Macedonian 
campaign, are from the Annals of Ennius, one of the earliest 
poets of Rome (939-170 n.c). The Annals contained the national 
story from mythical ages to his own. Lucretius speaks of him 
<i. 117) : 

'As our fam'd Ennius sings, upon whose brow 

The first and freshest crowns of laurel grow 

That ever learned Italy could show.' 
He was the inventor of the Latin hexameter. The Titus he 
addressed was Titus Quinctius Flaminius, the conqueror of Philip 
of Macedon. Cicero applies them to his friend Titus Pomponius 
Atticus, to whom the treatise is dedicated. It was written probably 
in 44 S.c., when Cicero was sixty-three — in the troubled period 
that followed the death of Csesar. Cicero had much need of its 
consolations. He says, in a letter to Atticus : ' I must read my 
treatise over and over again ; it is dedicated to you. Old age is 
spoiling my temper. Everything puts me in a rage. For me life 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Your temperate and well-ordered mind, and 

know 
From Athens you did not derive your name 
Alone, but with it all its culture and good sense. 
And yet sometimes I fancy you have felt 
The self-same feelings, which do trouble me, 
Which are more serious, and with which I'll deal 
Some later day. 2 Enough that now I speak 
A word upon old age, the heavy load, 
Which we already, or will shortly feel, 
From which I gladly would relieve us both. 
And yet I know how wisely, prudently, 
This you will bear, as you do all things else. 
Still, when I choose to speak about old age 
I think of you, and feel how you deserve 
What help I have to be of use to both. 
So pleasant has this treatise been to write, 
That it has wiped away and put aside 
The troubles of old age, and made them seem 
Easy and pleasant. Ah, we never can 
Be thankful to philosophy enough, 
Which thus enables us to spend our days, 
Howe'er prolonged, without monotony. 
Of other things I have already spoke 
And will again: this treatise, now I send, 

2 These allude to the State troubles which fell so heavily on 
Cicero in his later years. Thus he writes to one of his friends : 
' You are far away ; if you were here to see the condition of 
affairs, you could not refrain from tears. I could not bear it all 
if it were not that I take refuge in the haven of philosophy, and 
have our dear Atticus as the .companion of my studies.' Atticus 
was an Epicurean, whose main object was to lead a calm, un- 
troubled life — in which he seems to have succeeded with a good 
deal of adroitness. After a long residence in Athens he added to 
his name the title of Atticus. 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Deals with old age. I have not put the words 

Into the mouth, as some I see have done, 

Of some one famed in fable or in myth 

(Aristo 3 used Tithonus, as you know: 

Such tales count little), but have chosen one, 

Old Cato,* whose authority will give 

Weight to my words : with him I will present 

Lselius, and Scipio, who in wonder ask 

How he so easily can bear old age : 

He will reply : and if it seems that he 

More learning shows than in his books is found, 

Remember how that in his latest years 

He studied still the learning of the Greeks. 

But why say more? — old Cato will himself 

— ' 3 Aristo of Ceos, a philosopher, 225 b.c. Cicero calls him 
'Concinnus et elegans Aristo/ Tithonus, whom Aristo intro- 
duced in his treatise on Old Age, was the brother of Priam. By 
the prayers of the goddess Aurora, he obtained the gift of 
immortality, but she forgot to ask eternal youth as well, and 
he became a decrepit, shrunk old man. Tennyson tells the 
story: 

' Immortal age beside immortal youth. 
... Ah ! let me go : take back thy gift : 
Why should a man desire in any way 
To vary from the kindly race of men, 
Or pass beyond the goal of ordinance, 
Where all should pause, as is most meet for all.' 

* M. Porcius Cato was a soldier, an orator, a farmer, and an 
author, 234-149 b.c. He distinguished himself in the second 
Punic War. He wrote a treatise on agriculture, and in his later 
days was an exponent of the good old Roman virtue and severity. 
Livy has a striking panegyric of him : 'In parsimonia, in patientia 
laboris, periculi, prope ferrei corporis animique, quem non 
senectus quidem, quae solvit omnia, fregerit : qui sextum et 
octagesimum annum agens caussam dixerit, ipse pro se oraverit 
scripseritque : nonagesimo anno S. Galbam ad populi adduxerit 
judicium ' (xxxix. 40). He is the principal speaker in the dialogue, 
Scipio and Laelius merely appearing to introduce the subject. 

3 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Explain ouf feeling fully on old age. 

Scipio. We oft have Wondered, Laelius and I, 

At all your wisdom, CatO, and your power, 
And most of all that you have never felt 
Old age as tedious as others do, 
A burden, they declare, more hard to bear 
Than Etna's self would be, if laid on them. 6 

Cato. Your wonder is misplaced, dear friends : of 
course 
To those who've no resources in themselves 
For a good and happy life, why, every age 
Is hard to bear: but those who have within 
All that is needful for a life well-spent, 
Can never find misfortune in the lot 
That nature's laws impose. And one such lot 
Is that old age must come to each and all, 
Old age so fondly hoped for, when it comes, 
So Oft found to be irksome. Such, alas! 
Is Folly's want of reason and resolve. 
They say that it has come with quicker step 
Than they expected: pray, who was it then 
Forced them to this illusion? Did old age 
Come quicker upon youth, than youth itself 
On childhood? Had it seemed a lighter load 
If they had reached not to their eightieth year 
But e'en to ten times that ? For sure past years 
Howe'er prolonged could ne'er endow with charm 
A stupid old age. So if you admire 
My wisdom, and I wish that it was worth 

5 Of. Euripides, Hercules Fwims, 63T : 

'Glad was my youth, and light as air; 
But age, a burden on my head, 
Heavier than all the rocks of Etna lies.' 

4 



C1CEH0 ON OLD AGE 

"Your wonder and my name, 6 sure it consists 
In taking nature's laws to be our guide, 
Our guide divine, and yielding to their will ; 
If she has wisely shaped our earlier years, ^ 
It is not likely she has overlooked 
The latest act, as though it were a playi 
Writ by some careless poet. , Needs must be 
A final stage, just as we see in trees ; 
The fruits and berries come, and with them too 
A shrivelling and a withering of strength, 
Which we, if wise, must bear contentedly. 
To fight wit;h nature, what, IJrow, is that, 7 
But like the giants to make war on gods? 

/celius. Most grateful shall we be, my friend and I, 
(I sure may speak for him) if, as we hope 
And wish at any rate to reach old age, 
You would instruct us, Cato, ere we do, 
What methods we should take, to enable us 
How best to bear the weight of growing years. 

tofe. Ill gladly do so, if it be your wish. 

icelius. I* is indeed, that we may hear from you 

As having passed a long and toilsome road, 
That we too have to travel, what it's like. 

tato. I'll do my best, oft has it been my lot III. 

To hear such grumblers, men of my own years TJaual 
Like Livius Salinator and Albums complaint 

(Birds of a feather, so the proverb goes), against 

Men of position, who have oft deplored, old affe 

s Cato was called Sapiens, The Wise. 
' Cf. Hor. Odes, iii. 4, 42 : 

• Qse there lives we know 
Who from the skies with lightnings riven 
The Titans and their host laid low.' 

Gladstone's Translation. 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

How much they missed the pleasures that had 

given 
A zest to life: how they no more possessed 
That favour which was once so freely theirs. 
In this, I think, that they had missed the point. 
If, as they say, old age must hear the blame, 
Then I and all who are advanced in years 
Must feel the same: yet have I many known 
Who bore it uncomplaining: who declared 
That gladly they were freed from passion's 

chains, 
And yet were not looked down on by their 

friends. 
'Tis not to years that such complaints are due ; 
'Tis character's at fault. For temperate men, 
Men who are not cross-grained and hard to live 

with, 
Find age no burden: 'tis the rude and churlish 
No time of life can ever satisfy^ 
Lcelius. Cato, 'tis as you say : yet some^may think 
It was your wealth, position, dignity, 
These things, which are not in the lot of all, 
That made old age more pleasant to yourself. 
Cato. Something there is in that: not surely all. 
Themistocles, 'tis told, 8 disputed once 
With one that from Seriphos came, who said 
That by his country's greatness, not his own, 
He had attained to fame; and he replied, 
'If I'd been of Seriphos, it is true, 
I had not been distinguished, nor would you 
Had you been born at Athens.' Something like 

8 The story is told in Plato, Hep. i. 239; and also by Herodotus, 
viii. 125. 

6 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Might well be said of age. In poverty, 
Even the wise must find it burdensome : 
While wealth can't make it easy to a fool. 
But, after all is said, the best defence 
Against old age must be the exercise 
Of Virtue's qualities, which, practised still 
From early years, bring forth such wondrous 

fruit, 
After a long and busy life; for first 
They're always there, and never fail to come 
To your latest breath, no small thing in itself; 
And then besides what constant pleasure springs 
From inward knowledge of a life well spent, 
And the sweet memory of good deeds done. 

You've heard, of course, of Quintus Fabius, 9 IV. 
The man who won Tarentum back for Rome; 
When young, though he was old, I loved him 

Sti11 Q Fabius 

As he had been my equal: in that man Maximns 

There was a store of courteous dignity : 
•Age had not changed his character : although, 
When first I knew him, then no longer young 
But well advanced in years ; the Consulship 
Fell to him the year after I was born. 
When for the fourth time he had gained that 

prize, 
I, as a youth, served under him, when he 
To Capua went, and later at Tarentum. 
Then I myself was Quaestor, at which time 

9 Quintus Fabius Maximus, also called Cunctator, from the 
policy of 'masterly inactivity' — the Joffre policy — by which he 
defeated the designs of Hannibal. He was five times Consul 
between 233 and 209 b.c. 

7 



The case 
of 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

He took a leading part in legislation; 

And advocated Cincius' law on bribes. 

Aye, and when old, with all the dash of youth 

He bore him in the wars, and Hannibal, 

Who thought with his young years to thrust 

him down, 
By cautious delays he quite subdued, 
As our good Ennius so well has said: 
'One man by caution has restored the State 
And made it in his time for ever great ; 
No idle rumours shake his constant mind; 
The State is first : to all attacks he's blind ; 
And so it is hereafter more and more 
His fame shall flourish with an ampler store.' 1 * 
Ah, yes, what vigilance, what skill he showed 
" There at Tarentum; 'twas when I was there 
That Salinator, who had lost the town, 
Said to him, ' 'Twas through me your chances 

came,' 
And he replied, 'Most true, had you not lost 
The town, I never had retaken it.' 
As great he was in statesmanship as war. 
When Consul for the second time he dared 
To oppose his colleague, who had weakly 

thought, 
On the proposal of Flaminius, 
Against the Senate's will, to parcel out 
Land captured in the wars ; and then again 
As Augur had the courage to declare 
That what was for the State's supremest good, 

10 These lines might well be applied to the late Lord Kitchener 
— in all the panegyrics of him, the main point was that he ever 
put duty to his country first. 

8 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

That that the auguries approved, that what 
Was prejudicial to it, they condemned. 
Much that was great I recognised in him, 
But nought that I more wondered at, than how 
He bore his son's decease, a man of mark, 
Who had already filled the Consul's chair. 
His funeral speech we know, which when we 

read 
Where's the philosopher we don't contemn? 
'Twas not alone in public he was great 
Before the world's eyes, but greater still 
In his own home. What fine discourse he held, 
What maxims, what a knowledge of the law ! 
And for a Roman quite a scholar too. 
His memory most retentive, on the wars 
At home or else abroad. His whole discourse 
I prized so highly, that I seemed to know 
By prescience, what did in fact occur. 
When he was taken, there was no one left 
From whom to learn. Why say so much of him ? 
That you may see that 'tis impossible 
Truly to say that such a man's old age V. 

Was e'er unhappy. Yet we cannot all Some other 

Be Seipios or Fabii, and have cases 

The taking of great cities, fights on land of a happy 

Or sea, great victories ourselves have won, old age 

And triumphs still recorded to our fame. 
There is a placid and serene old age, 
Following a quiet, pure, and cultured life. 
XAnd such was Plato's, 11 in his eightieth year 
Dying with pen in hand; and such, too, was 

11 Plato was born at Athens 429 b.c, and died 348 b.c. Cicero 
elsewhere calls him ' Deus philosophorum.' 

9 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Isocrates', 1!! who tells us that he wrote 
His Panegyric e'en at ninety-four 
And lived five years beyond : whose master was 
Gorgias of Leontini, 13 who preserved 
His freshness far beyond his hundred years, 
And never ceased to work. When he was asked 
Why he was willing to remain so long, 
' I have no fault,' he said, ' to bring against 
Old age.' A famous saying, worthy too 
Of one who was a scholar. Ah, it is 
Their own mistakes fools urge against old age. 
Not so did Bnnius, whom I've named before: 
'As a brave horse the race that's often won 
Kests in his stall, and thinks of labours done.' 
To this he thus compares his own old age, 
One which you well remember. For he died 
But nineteen years ago, when I myself 
Was sixty-six, still able, with strong voice 
And healthy lungs, to take an arduous part 
In making laws; while he at seventy years 
(Such was his span of life) had still to bear 
Two of our greatest evils, as some think, 
Old age and poverty; and bore them so 
As still to seem content, and almost pleased. 
Four reasons are there, when I reckon up, 
j Why age should be unhappy : it withdraws 
Us from our work ; weakens the body's strength ; 

12 Isocrates, one of the great Attic orators, born 436 b.c. 
After the defeat of Chaeronea, he took his life at the age of 98. 
His Panegyric is called Pan-yithenaivus because it was read at 
the Panathenea. 

13 Gorgias, born 480 b.c, was a teacher of rhetoric and a 
philosopher. He is said to have lived beyond the hundred years. 
One of Plato's celebrated dialogues bears his name. 

10 



First, old 
age is no 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Bobs us of pleasures ; and cannot be far 
From death itself. Now these let us review, 
And see what justice may attach to each. 
Withdraws us from our work? what work, I VI. 

pray? 
From that which well accords with youth and 

strength? bar to 

Is there no work which age can still pursue? useful 
In which, although the body may be weak, activity 

The mind can take its part ? Was nought achieved 
By Maximus? by Paulus, 1 * he who was 
Your father, Scipio ? Or others take : 
Fabricii, Curii, Coruncanii, 
Did they do nothing to defend the State 
By counsel and advice? Old Claudius 16 
Was blind as well as aged, and yet 'twas he 
Who, when the Senate would have made a peace 
With Pyrrhus, and a treaty with the foe, 
Was bold to say, in Ennius' famous lines : 
' Where are the minds that used to stand 

serene, 
Where is the bravery that once has been?' 
And so with burning eloquence the lines 
Bun on : you know them : and you have beside 
The speech of Appius: well, we know that he, 
What time that war was waged, was old in 

years ; 
Twice he had filled the Consulship, and been 

14 L. jEmilius Faulus, surnamed also Macedonicus, was the 
father of the Scipio of the dialogue. He was adopted by P. 
Scipio, son of the Scipio who defeated Hannibal at Zama. 

15 Appius Claudius Caecus. He was Censor in 312 b.c. , and 
began the construction of the famous Appian road which was 
called after him. He also built the Appian aqueduct 

11 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

, A Censpr too, yet such the story told. 

NThey make no point, then, who affirm that age 
Can take no part in our affairs: it is 
As jf one said, the helmsman in a ship 
Was doing nothing, since 'tis others climb 
The masts, rush through the gangways, man 

the pumps, 
While he with helm in hand sits in the stern. 
The tasks of youth he leaves, but yet performs 
Far better, more important ones himself. 
Not to the swift or strong the battle is 
/Of life, but by wise counsel, character, 
•Deliberation, and of these old age 
Is not deprived, but has a larger store. 
Unless, indeed, you think that I who've been 
In many kinds of war, first in the ranks, 
And then as tribune, legate, consul too, 
Am 'idle now, because I am at home. 
I teach the Senate when to fight, and how; 
Carthage, I know, has long been plotting ill, 
And in good time I point it out : on that 
My fears remain, until she is destroyed ; 16 
That glory, Seipio, may the gods on high 
Reserve for you, that you may so complete 
Your grandsire's task ; w 'tis two and thirty years 

16 The famous > Delenda est Carthago ' was a saying of Cato's, 
due to his foresight. Having been sent on a mission to Carthage, 
he observed the menace of its growing power. He died 129 B.C., 
at the age of eighty-five. 

17 P. Cornelius Seipio Africanus Major, one of the greatest 
men of Rome, and distinguished in the war against Carthage. 
The Seipio of the treatise was P. Cornelius Seipio Africanus, son 
to L. jKmilius Paulus, and adopted by the son of the conqueror 
of Hannibal, who, as Cicero names further on, had weak health, 
which prevented him taking his part in public affairs, 

12 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Since he did die, and yet all years to come 
Will keep his memory green. He died the year 
That I was Censor, and had been returned 
Consul to serve with me a second time. 
Now think you had he lived to his hundredth 

year, 
Had he repented him of being so old? 
Sure not for him would then have been to share 
In wars, excursions, and alarums, fights 
With spears, or at close quarters with the sword ; 
His weapons, counsel, reason, and debate. 
If these were not among our elder men, 
Our ancestors I think had never called 
Our chief assembly by the name of Senate, 18 
Which means the place where old men meet: 

and so 
In Lacedsemon those who rule the State 
Are termed ' the Seniors.' 19 If again you read 
Or hear the history of States, you'll find 
The greatest of them have been overturned 
By rash young men, and by the old restored 
And brought to life. As Naavius asks, 
' Who was it brought this ruin on the State ? ' 
And they reply, with other causes, this : 
'New orators appeared to lead the Way, 
Too young, too foolish they to be our stay,' 
/For rashness is the mark of youth, the old 
(Take prudence and due caution for their guide. 
r,o But memory goes, you say. No doubt, unless VII. 
You practise it, or if you're somewhat dull. There is no 
Themistocles knew all the citizens reason why 

19 Senatus, the assembly of ' Series.' memory 

19 ytpovaia that of the yipovnff— ' the old '--at Sparta. should fail. 

13 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

By name : do you suppose in his old age 
When Aristides came, he used to say 
Lysimachus? Why I not only know 
The men to-day, but who their fathers were, 
And grandfathers as well. Nor do I fear 
As the saying goes to lose my memory 
By still perusing tombstones-: nay, I find 
From them I learn to know the dead and gone. 
/I've never heard of any old man yet, 
*Who knew not where he'd put away his purse, 
Their memory's good for all that interests them : 
When they must answer to their bail, their 

debts, 
The money due to them. And what of lawyers, 
Pontiffs, and augurs, and philosophers? 
What memories they have in quite old age ! 
Oh, yes, the old retain their wits quite well, 
If but they exercise and practise them. 
And that not only in the case of men 
Of high distinction and repute, but those 
Who lead a quiet private life apart. 
We know that Sophocles 30 in quite old age 
Went on composing plays : and when his sons, 
Thinking that from his close pursuit of art 
His own affairs had suffered, made him come 
Before the court, and asked that as our law 
Kemoves from the control of his affairs 
A father who is squandering his means, 
So he, as weak in intellect, should be 
Likewise prohibited. His answer was 

20 Sophocles, the great tragic poet, was born 495 B.C. The 
CEdipua at Colonus was his last work, written, it is said, in his 
ninetieth year. It is to this that allusion is made. 

14 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

To lay the piece, which then he had in hand, 

Before the judge, recite it, and then ask, 

' Is that a weak man's work? ' He won his case. 

Take Homer, Hesiod, and Simonides, 

Isocrates, or Gorgias, whom I named, 

The great philosophers, Pythagoras, 

Plato, Democritus, Zenocrates, 

Or Zeno or Cleanthes; later still, 

Diogenes, sl whom you have seen at Rome : 

Tell me, did age in any one of these 

Compel him to be silent? is it not 

A fact that is well known to all of us, 

Their active studies ended with their lives? 

But to pass by these studies of the Gods, 

I can enumerate friends among my own 

And neighbours from the Sabine land close by, 

Just Roman country folk, in whose absence 

None of the greater field works are performed, 

As sowing, reaping, garnering of the fruit. 

In these things this need not surprise at all : 

For no one is so old, as not to think 

That he may live a year. But they bestow 

Their toil on what they know can't profit them. 

' He plants his trees in order that they may 

Afford us shelter, in some distant day,' 

As Statius 23 says. Nor would a farmer e'er 

81 These all, with the exception of Diogenes, were philosophers 
of the great age of Greece. Diogenes here is Diogenes the Stoic, 
to be distinguished from the Cynic of the same name. 

28 Caecilius Statius was a Roman comic poet, who died 168 B.C., 
of an earlier date than Terence. He must be distinguished from 
the later Pomponius Statius. Horace thought highly of him : 

'Vincere Caecilius gravitate Terentius arte.' 
Like Terence, he was a slave, and born at Milan. 

15 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

To one who asked for whom he plants his trees 

Decline to answer, ' For the Gods above, 

Who willed that those who went before should 

give 
Me all- 1 have, that I again may hand 
Them safely on to my posterity.' 
VIII. Far better that, than what Csecilius sings : 
That old ' Ah > a S e » if y° u brin S nought beside 
age brings Tnis is enough for me, 

much we That you bring with you many things 

dislike and One never wished to see.' 

that our And much too that is pleasant : and beside 
friends tire ^ n youth we meet with much that we dislike, 
of us. Worse still is this the same Csecilius sings : 
'This is the great misfortune of the old, 
To feel that others' love to them grows cold.' 
Nay, rather love is greater than it was, 
For just as old men take delight to see 
Young men of parts around them, and it makes 
Their age more pleasant, when they see they're 

loved 
And honoured by the young : the young them- 
selves 
Delight to hear the precepts of the old, 
And so are led to follow Virtue's paths. 
Nor do I think that I less pleasant am 
To you, than you to me. And so you see 
Old age not only is not given to ease 
And idleness, but rather full of work, 
Still doing, planning something new and fresh 
On the same lines that it has done before. 
Nay, do not some their learning still increase ? 
You know old Solon's boast, that every day 

16 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

When growing old, he learned something fresh ; 
Or I myself, who learned Greek when old, 
And made such great advancement in its lore 
While seeking to assuage my daily thirst, 
That I then noted down the very things 
Which I now use to adorn my treatises. 
And when I heard what Socrates had done 
Upon the lyre (the ancients learned the lyre), 
I wished to learn it too, but still pursued 
My taste for letters. 

Nor did I desire IX. 

The strength -of youth (that is another fault We do not 
Imputed to old age), more than, when young, misB 
A. wished to be a bull or elephant. physical 

v What nature gives to man, that let him use : strength. 

Still fit your work according to your strength. 
Who can be more absurd, than Milo 28 was ; 
When he saw athletes exercise themselves 
In throwing spears, he bared his arms, and said, 
' Alas, alas, the strength of these is dead.' 
No more than you, you triflers : 'twas alone 
Your chest and brawny arms that gave you 

fame. M 
Great lawyers, whom I easily could name, 

23 Milo of Crotona, a famous athlete, many times victor at 
the Olympian and Pythian games. 

24 Milton, in Samson Agonistes, says : 

' O impotence of mind, in body strong ! 
But what is strength without a double share 
Of wisdom ! vast, unwieldy, burdensome, 
Proudly secure, yet liable to fall 
By weakest subtleties, not made to rule, 
But to subserve where wisdom bears command. 
God, when he gave me strength, to shew withal 
How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair.' 

17 c 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Have never said such things : to their Latest 

breath 
They but increased their knowledge. Orators — 
Ah, these indeed may weaken in old age : 
Their calling asks not intellect alone 
But strength of lung : and yet the ringing note 
Which voices have, increases in old age, 
I don't know how: I have not lost mine yet: 
You know my years : but still an old man's speech 
Should be pitched low, restrained : and often- 
times 
A clever old man's quiet eloquence 
An audience wins. If you cannot attain 
To this yourself, you can at least instruct 
Scipio and Leelius: for what more sweet 
Than old age still surrounded by the stir 
Of youthful interests: and shall we not 
Allow to age the strength to educate 
And teach our youth, and show them how to bear 
Official duty? no more glorious task. 
Yes, I remember how the Scipios, 
And your grandfathers, still seemed fortunate 
In having youths around them: nor indeed 
As teachers of the arts are men esteemed 
Less good, that age and loss of strength has 

come. 
Aye, and that loss of strength is often traced 
To youthful folly, and not age: and so 
A careless and intemperate youth may hand 
A worn-out body to our later years. 
Thus Cyrus, as we learn from Xenophon, 
In that discourse, when on the brink of death, 
Declared that he had never felt his age 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

More feeble than hia youth. Myself I knew 
Metellus 25 as a boy, who having served 
A second consulship was after made 
Chief Pontiff, and retained that dignity 
For two and twenty years, to the very last 
So full of strength as never to regret 
The loss of youth. About myself no need 
To speak, although it is an old man's way 
Permitted to our years. You know of course 
How Homer tells, how Nestor still proclaimed 
His own good qualities, though even then, 
' Two generations full had passed away ' : 26 
Yet he'd no fear, that thus in telling truth 
He should be thought too proud or talkative : 
For from his mouth there flowed, as honey 

sweet, 
Discourse, which needed not the strength of 

youth 
To sweeten it. The famous Grecian chief 
Ne'er wished ten men like Ajax, a7 but declared 

25 L. Caecilius Metellus, distinguished in the Carthaginian wars. 
Consul 251 b.c, and again in 249 b.c. 

26 Of. Homer, II. i. 249 : 

' Nestor, the leader of the Pylian host, 
The smooth-tongued chief from whose persuasive lips 
Sweeter than honey flowed the stream of speech. 
Two generations of the sons of men 
For him were past and gone, who with himself 
Were born and bred on Pylos' lovely shore, 
And o'er the third he now held royal sway.* 

27 Of. Homer, 77. ii. 371— translated by Lord Derby : 

' To whom the monarch Agamemnon thus : 
" Father in council of the sons of Greece, 
None can compare with thee ; and would to Jove, 
To Pallas and Apollo, at my side 
I had but ten such counsellors as thee ! 
Then soon should royal Priam's city fall." ' 

19 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

With ten like Nestor, Troy would sooner fall. 
X. And now as to myself. At eighty years 

As to I wish I felt like Cyrus, yet can say 
myself That though my strength is not as when I 
I am still fought 
fit and I Q * ne ranks, or Quaestor in the Punic Wars, 
well. Nor when in Spain as Consul, nor again 
At famed Thermopylae, yet as you see 
Old age has not exhausted, worn me out: 
Nor does the Senate house, nor yet the stage 
From which we speak, my clients or my friends 
Or foreign guests find all my vigour gone. 
I ne'er admit the truth of that old saw 
So much paraded, if you wish to have 
A long old age, begin it in good time, 
Be old in youth: myself I'd rather be 
Old for a shorter time, than old when young: 
So no one ever came for my advice 
Whom I denied, as being too much engaged. 
'Tis true my strength's not yours ; but yet your 

own 
Is not like that of Pontius: 38 is he then 
A better man than you? Let there but be 
A careful husbanding of strength : let each 
In due proportion work: and we shall have 
In such no vain regrets for loss of strength. 
Milo, 'tis said, upon the Olympic course 
Once carried a live bullock on his back: 
Then would you rather have that strength of his 
Than the intellectual vigour, which adorned 
Pythagoras? Use then the gifts you have: 

28 Pontius is unknown; his strength has not preserved his 
memory. 

20 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

When gone, regret them not: unless as men 

You are to ask for boyhood to return, 

When older ask for youth : there still must be 

A certain lapse of years ; one only way 

Nature pursues, and that a simple one: 

To each is given what is fit for him. 

The boy is weak: youth is more full of fire: 

Increasing years have more of soberness : 

And so in age there is a ripeness too. 

Each should be garnered at its proper time, 

And made the most of. Scipio, I think 

You know full well what your grandfather's 

friend, 
Old Masinissa 29 does at ninety years: 
When he's begun a journey on his feet 
He never mounts a horse : when on a horse 
He ne'er gets down again ; no showers, no cold, 
Can ever make him cover up his head. 
His frame possesses such solidity 
That all the functions, duties of a king, 
He still discharges. Thus by temperance 
And moderation you can still retain 
Some of your early vigour. 

But you say XI. 

Old age is weak : you do not need it strong : 01d aot 
And so our customs and our laws alike the only 

Provide that we are free from all the tasks source of 
That call for strength. We therefore are not weakness. 

asked 
The impossible to do, nor all we can. 
But many old men have so little strength 

29 Masinissa, King of the Numidians, who died at the age of 
ninety-seven. 

21 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

That they no duties can perform at all, 
Nor office hold. 'Tis not the fault of age, 
But of ill-health. How weak you know the son 
Of Africanus, who adopted you, 
How frail his health: nay, rather none at all. 
Had it not been so, how he would have shone, 
Another bright light in this State of ours; 
A greater mind, he had ev'n reached beyond 
His father's greatness. Is it strange at all 
Old men are weak, when youth sometimes itself 
Is weak as well ? And so we must, dear friends, 
Fight still against old age, and all its faults 
Endeavour to make good by taking pains: 
Fight it, as we would fight disease; attend 
To health ; use moderate exercise ; of food 
And drink as much as will sustain our strength, 
Not burden it. Nor is the body all: 
That must be cared for, but far more than it 
The soul, the intellect; unless you feed 
Them like a lamp with oil, they soon go out 
When age comes on". By constant exercise 
The body grows more heavy; but the mind 
More light and nimble. ^When Caecilius speaks 
'Of the old comic fools,' he means the men 
Who're easily deluded, credulous, 
Forgetful: these are not old age's faults, 
But of an old age that has gone to sleep, 
Is idle, lazy. Just as wantonness 
And dissoluteness are the faults of youth. 
And not of age : yet not of every youth, 
But of the bad; just so that senile dotage 
Which we call imbecility belongs 
To the old who are lightheaded, not to all. 

22 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Appius, though old and blind as well, controlled 

Four sons, five daughters, and a great array 

Of clients, with a large establishment: 

His mind was always on the stretch, nor did 

He e'er in slothfulness give way to age : 

Not only did he wield authority, 

But ruled with strictness : in his household 

feared, 
With awe regarded by his children, held 
By all to be sagacious; in his house 
The good old fashion and the discipline, 
That fathers used to wield, did still prevail. 
Old age, in fact, enjoys respect as long 
As it asserts itself, maintains its power, 
Is thrall to none, and to its latest breath 
Asserts a just authority. So I 
Approve a youth who for his years is old, 
And like an old man who is somewhat young. 
Who aims at this, however old he be, 
Will still in heart be young. I now myself 
Am busy writing down my seventh book 
Of Origins: and for it I collect 
The records of the past. Then I arrange 
The speeches made in all my famous suits. 80 
Write treatises on law ; read much in Greek : 
And like the old Pythagorean School, 
Each day what I have said, or heard, or done, 
Commit to writing, with a view to keep 
My memory good. This keeps my mind in trim, 
And trains the intellect. While toiling thus 
And labouring still, I feel but little need 

30 Cicero says in another place he had read one hundred and 
fifty of the speeches of Cato. 

23 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Of others' strength. I'm ready for my friends 
To plead their cause : and in the Senate still 
Am often found, and there bring forward things 
I've thought on long and much, and these 

support 
By strength not of the body, but the mind; 
E'en could I not do this, I could enjoy 
My couch, and muse on what I could not do. 
'Tis my past life that makes this possible. 
For living in the midst of these pursuits 
And labours one does not observe the time 
When age creeps on. So, by degrees, in stealth 
Our life comes to a close, no sudden break, 
But slowly going out by lapse of years. 

XII. Thirdly, it is alleged against old age, 

Old age It nas no sensual pleasures to enjoy. 

lacks Divinest gift of age, to take away 
sensual What is the greatest blot on youthful years ! 
pleasures. Hear, my dear friends, a speech Archytas made 
(Who was a very old and famous man), 31 
And told me at Tarentum, where I was 
With Quintus Maximus, when quite a youth : 
'No greater curse than sensuality 
Has Nature given to man: its foul desires 
To feed, lust grows unbridled and unwise; 
Hence countries are betrayed, states over- 
thrown, 
Secret arrangements with our foes are made. 
There is no crime, no ill deed to which lust 

81 Archytas of Tarentum, a philosopher of the School of Pytha- 
goras, but who nevertheless was chosen seven times as general 
of the armies of Tarentum. Horace has addressed an ode to 
him. 

24 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Cannot entice : abominable vice 
Of every kind is due to this alone. 
Nature herself, or some kind deity 
Has given to man no greater gift than mind: 
But to this gift, this faculty divine, 
No greater enemy can be than lust. 
When that bears sway, all moderation's gone, 
And 'neath its rule virtue cannot survive. 
To understand this better, just conceive 
A man who is entirely slave to lust. 
No one can think, that while he so remains, 
His mind, his reason, and his power of thought 
Can aught effect of good : so nothing is 
More hateful and more dangerous than lust : 
Since as it stronger grows, with firmer seat, 
In time the soul's light is extinguished.' 
These were the words Archytas then addressed 
To Caius Pontius, sire of him who won 
The battle at the Caudine Forks : w my friend 
Nearchus of Tarentum, who remained 
Loyal to Rome, he told me he had heard 
The story from some old man, who declared 
Plato himself was present at the time. 
Why do I tell you this? That you may see 
If this same lust cannot be overcome 
By wisdom and philosophy: we owe 
Great thanks to age, which thus ennobles us 
That we no longer have desire for that 
We know is wrong. Lust hinders proper 
thought, 

82 It was, according to Livy, C. Pontius, a Samnite, who de- 
feated the Romans at the Caudine Forks. Cicero seems to have 
made a mistake in taking the son for the father. 

25 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Is reason's foe, the mind's eye renders blind, 
Has no companionship in virtue's ways. 
Most sorry was I that I had to expel 
Flaminius 83 from the Senate, who had been 
Already Consul, but it was a case 
Most gross in character : for when in Gaul 
He yielded to his paramour's advice, 
When dining with her, to behead a man 
In custody upon a serious charge. 
His brother Titus in the year before 
Acquitted him : Flaccus and I could not ; 
It was a case so gross and criminal, 
Not only bringing personal disgrace, 
But grave discredit on the State itself. 
XIII. I've heard it said by older men than me, 

Pleasure Who had in boyhood heard it from their sires, 
not the Fabricius used to wonder, he'd been told, 
chief end, When envoy with King Pyrrhus, of a man, ** 
hut not to Reputed a philosopher, who said 
he despised. That pleasure was to be our guide in life. 
That hearing this, our Roman generals, 
Curius and Coruucanius, you know, 
Were wont to wish the Samnites thought the 

same, 
King Pyrrhus too, for victory would be 
Much easier, if they put their pleasures first. 
This Curius was the friend of Decius, ' ^ 
Who for the State had given away his life. 
Fabricius knew him, Coruncanius too, 

33 This was L. Flaminius, brother of T. Flaminius, named at 
the beginning of the treatise. The story is told in Livjr, xxxix. 12 ; 
and also by Plutarch in his life of Cato, with some variation. 

31 This refers to Epicurus, who died b.c. 270. 
26 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

And from their own life, and what he had done, 
They judged that there was something fair and 

good 
By Nature's gift, which we should seek to gain, 
Which every wise man of his own accord 
Scorning, condemning pleasure, would desire. 
But why so much of pleasure? Why, you see, 
Not only is it no disgrace to age, 
But ev'n its greatest merit that it longs 
No more for pleasure, cares no more for feasts 
With loaded tables and o'er-flowing wine. 
It misses too the headache, and the night 
Of sickness and of sleeplessness that comes. 
If something we must grant to pleasure's claim : 
(It is not easy to resist its charm: 
The godlike Plato thinks it is a bait 
To catch the foolish, just as fish are caught:) 
Though we cannot indulge in gorgeous feasts, 
A modest dinner we can still enjoy. 
I often saw Duillius 35 as a boy, 
'Twas he who first inflicted a defeat 
Upon the Carthaginians, coming home 
From dinner, where the use of torch and pipes 
Had greatly pleased him, although quite un- 
known 
And qu^te unprecedented in the case 
Of private persons ; 'twas a privilege 
Accorded to his fame. Why speak of these? 
Let's take myself: I always have belonged 
To a club ; for clubs you know were first begun 

35 Duillius, who inflicted the first naval defeat which Rome 
won against Carthage, did it by the use of grappling irons, which 
drew the enemy's ships towards his own and held them fast. 

27 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

When I was Quaestor, when we brought to Borne 
The mighty Mother of the Grods from Ida. 36 
I dined there with due moderation still : 
Although there was a certain fire of youth 
Which died away as years advanced: in fact 
I measured still my pleasure in these feasts 
More by the company and sweet converse, 
Than any pleasures of a viler sort. 
How happily our ancestors have named 
The feast in which friends join 'convivium' — 
The life together — seeing it implies 
Close fellowship — far better than the Greeks 
Who call it by a word that rather means 
To drink or eat together: 37 and so mark / 

What is of least importance. V 

XIV. For myself 

Enjoy I s ^ delight in talking, and enjoy 
society Banquets beginning early, not alone 
though With those of my own age (but few remain), 
oldg But with the young, with you : I pay my thanks 
To age, which has increased my love of talk, 
And has removed desire to eat and drink: 
And even if these please (I do not wish 
To levy war on pleasure, after all 
It is the gift of nature), I can't see 
That age is quite devoid of taste for them. 
Myself I love a master of the feast, 
As our forefathers had, and let the talk 

36 The worship of CyHele was introduced, according to Livy, 
xxix. 11, in 203 B.C. from Mt. Ida in Phrygia during the war 
with Hannibal, in obedience to the command of the oracle at 
Delphi. 

w The Greeks called it pv/hiwiov or avvfoiirviov — a drinking or 
eating together. 

28 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Go round, as goes the cup : and let the cups, 
As in the banquet Xenophon describes, 88 
Be small, and give their contents drop by drop, 
Well cooled by ice in summer, in the cold 
Warmed by the sun or fire. Such is the plan 
I follow at my Sabine seat : each day 
Invite my neighbours, and prolong the feast 
With varied talk as far into the night 
As we can do. But now perhaps you'll say 
Such tingling pleasure does not thrill old men 
Like us: we do not want it: and be sure 
Nothing need trouble, which you do not want. 
'Twas Sophocles who said so well when asked 
If still he loved when old, ' Why, Heaven forbid ! 
I have escaped from that, as though it were 
A coarse and maddened tyrant.' Possibly 
To those who like such ways it may seem hard 
And irksome too without them: but to those 
Who've had their day of pleasure and of joy, 
Tis pleasanter to want than have : and he 
Who does not want, cannot be said to lack : 
So not to want is pleasanter by far. 
But grant these pleasures are enjoyed by youth 
More fully, after all they seem to me 
But trifles, nor does age entirely miss 
The enjoyment of them, though in less degree. 
A man in the front seat no doubt enjoys 
The acting of Ambivius Turpio, 39 
And so does one who sits in the backmost row, 

38 Xenophon says yv Sk ij/iiv oi ttiuShs /wepatg Kv\t£t itvkvcc 
iirul/exaZiomv — 'if the slaves give us frequent drops in little 
glasses'— the wine will not affect us. 

39 One of the famous actors in the days of Terence. 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Though not so much : so youth with nearer view 
Of pleasure is more pleased, yet still old age 
Though looking on afar, has its delights 
In proper limit. Ah, how great they are; 
The soul discharged from service to fell lust, 
Ambition, strife, and all the hideous train 
Of hatred and desire, is left alone 
And dwells apart: and if it only have 
Some food for study, and the wish to learn, 
Nought can be pleasanter than leisured age. 
Thus Caius Grallus, 40 Scipio, we have seen, 
Your father's friend, up to his very death 
Engaged in mapping out the earth and skyr 
How oft when he began his work at eve 
The early dawn surprised him; and how oft 
When rising early, night still found him there ! 
How much it pleased him to predict to us 
Eclipses of the sun or moon! Again 
Take lighter studies, which yet still require 
Keenness of wit, what pleasure NsBvius* 1 took 

40 Caius Gallus, an astronomer, when fighting as tribune under 
L. jEmilius Paulus against the Macedonians, he warned the 
Roman troops not to be alarmed at an eclipse of the moon which 
was to take place the following night ; it was, he said, a periodic 
phenomenon due to natural causes which could be known and pre- 
dicted. The Macedonians, on the other hand, were terrified at 
the portent. Cf. Livy, xliv. 37. 

41 Nsevius, the oldest Roman comedian (364-194 B.C.), who also 
wrote, in the cumbrous Saturnian metre, a history of the Punic 
Wars. Plautus, in his Braggart Soldier, v. 211, alludes to his 
being put in prison for some of his political diatribes. That he 
thought highly of his own ability, his epitaph written by himself 
proves : ( ~ 

' If Gods could ever weep for men below, 
The Muses' tears for Naevius would flow : 
For when men ceased to listen to his song, 
Latins forgot to speak the Latin tongue.' 

30 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

In his Punic wars? or Plautus in his plays?* 3 
Why, Livius Andronicus I have seen 
Myself, although his first play was produced 
Some seven years before my birth took place. 
Why speak of Crassus and his legal lore? 
Of Publius Scipio, who was lately made 
High Pontiff ? all of these I've named, we've seen 
In age still burning study to pursue. 
Or take Cethegus, 43 whom our enemies termed 
Rightly the quintessence. of eloquence, 
What pains he took in speaking when quite old ? 
Pray where in feasts, or games, or mistresses 
Are pleasures such as these to be enjoyed? 
And these pursuits, with learning for their goal,* 4 
To those who're prudent and well taught, still 

grow 
With growing years: as Solon says so well 
Whom I've already quoted, every day 
He learned something new : nought can surpass 
Such pleasures of the mind. 

Y And now I come XV. 

The 

42 Plautus came after Nsevius (254-184 B.C.). In contradis- 

tinction to his predecessor, of whom we hare no complete pleasures 
remains, we have no less than twenty of his comedies. Livius f 

Andronicus, the earliest Roman poet (335-200 b.c), turned the 
Odyssey into Saturnian verse. He was a slave from Greece, and tarmmgf. 
was tutor to the young of many noble families. 

43 Cethegus died 196 b.c. Ennius calls him ' Suavi loquente 
ore.' 

44 Cf. Lucretius, ii. 5 : 

'But yet more sweet 
On Wisdom's height serene to plant our feet, 
And learning from the wise of other days 
To watch the many wandering in a maze, 
Seeking in vain to And the way of life, 
Engaged for ever in a constant strife.' 

31 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

To those which farmers feel, 45 in which I take 
A vast delight: and which, at any rate, 
No age can hinder, and which seem to me 
To approach the ideal of a wise man's life. 
They have to deal with earth, obedient earth, 
Which ever gives back more than it receives : 
It may be sometimes more, or sometimes less : 
But as for me, 'tis not the crop alone 
That I delight in, but the natural force 
And vigour of the soil: which first receives 
Into its lap, all smoothed and broken up, 
The scattered seed : then keeps it hidden there : 
The harrowing which hides it, takes its name 
Prom a word that means to hide: and then 

when warmed 
By its heat and close embrace, it splits it up, 
And you can see the young green shoot appear, 
Which drawing vigour from the roots, grows up: 
And by its jointed stalk still held erect 
Is enclosed within a sheath, from which in time, 
When it escapes, you find the ear of corn 
Ranged in a spike, protected in due course 
By a palisade of awns, from little birds. 
Why should I speak about the vines we plant, 

w This reminds us of Virgil's 

'0 fortunatos niraium sua si bona norint 
Agricolas ! quibus ipsa procul discordibus armis 
Fundi t humo facilem victum justissima tellus.' 

Oeor. ii. 458. 

'Oh, happy, happy toilers in the fields, 
If thine own happiness thou didst but know, 
Spoilt child of Fortune ! For thy simple wants, 
Far from the clash of armoured battle, Earth, 
The ever faithful, from a willing lap 
Scatters her ready store.' Lord Buhghclere. 

32 



CICEKQ ON OLD AGE 

Their growth and increase ? For of these I ne'er 
Can haye enough, that you may know the peaoe 
And pleasure that surrounds, my later years.. 
And here I leave aside the natural strength 
Of all that earth produces, which can bring 
From the fig's minutest seed, the pip of grape, 
Or from the little grains, of other plants, 
Such mighty trunks and branches. Mallet- 

shoots, 46 
Slips, cuttings, quicksets, layers, are not these 
Enough to fill one with a strange delight? 
The vine is naturally prone to droop, 
And, if not propped, it falls : to raise itself 
Tendrils, like hands, lay hold of all that's near. 
And when \t spreads in wild and wandering 

course, 
The pruner's skill restrains it, lest it grow 
Top much, and spread its shoots too far abroad- 
And so when spring comes in, m those he leaves, 
At every joint is found an eye: from which 

there springs 
The grape, which fed by moisture from the 

earth, 
And the sun's kind warmth, grows on : to taste 

at first 
Quite bitter, in the end as it matures. 
Becoming sweet: 'neath tendrils hidden away, 
It still enjoys a moderate heat, and yet 
Wards off the sun's fierce rays : say wbat can be 
More gladdening than its fruit, more fair to see ? 
Its usefulness is not its only charm : 

46 Mallet-shoots are hammer-shaped slips of trees or shrubs for 
planting. 

33 D 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Its nature, and its culture, these I love: 
The stays in rows, the tying of the tops, 
Layering and propagation of the vines, 
Some shoots cut off, others allowed to grow, 
All this I love to watch: and then again 
There is-, the irrigation of the soil, 
The digging and the trenching, which increase 
Its fruitfulness. I have already dealt, 
In the treatise which I wrote on farming things, 
With what concerns manure: which Hesiod 
So strangely missed, though Homer long before 
Depicts Laertes,* 7 mourning for his son, 
Soothing himself by culture of his land, 
Manuring it. Nor is it only in the fields, 
The meadows, and the vineyards, and the woods, 
A farmer's life is pleasant: still there are 
The gardens and the orchards, flocks of sheep, 
And swarms of bees, and flowers of varied hue. 
Nor is it planting only that delights: 
There is the grafting, cleverest device 
That gardeners use. 
XVI. V I might go on for long 

The great ^o * e ^ ^ ne pleasures of a country life : 
men of the Perhaps I've said too much ; and yet I think 
past loved You'll pardon : farming is an old pursuit, 
farming. I long have followed: and old men will talk. 
I do not wish to minimise their faults. 

* 7 Of. Homer, Qd. xxiv. 224; translated by Morris: 
' So his father he found, who alone in the ordered garth abode, 
About a vine stock digging : in a kirtle foul was he clad, 
All patched and right unseemly, and bound round his legs he had 
Greaves clouted.' 

The word rendered by ' digging ' has nothing to do with manure ; 
but still, Laertes may have been digging it in. 

31 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

There's Manius Curius 48 when he had subdued 
The Samnites, Sabines, and King Pyrrhus, too: 
This was the life he chose : and when I see 
His villa ('tis not far away from mine), 
I can't too much admire his temperate life, 
And the spirit of the age. One day when he 
Was sitting by his hearth, the Samnites brought 
A load of gold; he would not look at it; 
To have the gold would bring no fame to him : 
But those to conquer, who possessed the gold. 
Such a great heart, how could it but secure 
A happy old age? Now let me return 
To farming (not to leave my own pursuit). 
In former days our Senators had farms: 
And Cincinnatus 49 was behind the plough 
When made Dictator : 'twas at his command 
That Spurius Mselius was condemned to death 
For treason. These old men, when on their 

farms 
Received their call the Senate to attend, 
And those who called were so named ' travellers. 
Think you their old age was a poor affair, 
Because their heart was in their farm ? I think 
No life could be more happy, not alone 
Because it benefits the human race, 

48 Manius Curius, a humble farmer, who was three times 
Consul (290, 275, 274 b.c). He successfully opposed the Samnites, 
and later defeated Pyrrhus, without ceasing to be a simple 
Sabine farmer and to cultivate his own land. When the 
Samnites came to him on the occasion Cicero speaks of they 
found him roasting turnips at his fire. 

49 Cincinnatus, a favourite hero of the Roman Republic : about 
519-439 b.c. He was twice appointed Dictator, once to fight 
against the iEquians, and later to oppose the machinations of 
Sp. Meelius, whom he put to death. 

35 



CJCEI*0 ON QL,D AGE 

But for the charm it has, and the supply 

Qf ah that is require^ f°V food of men, 

Or for the worship qf the Gods above. 

As these are what me? 1 want, let's make our 

peace 
With pleasure and he friends,, The prudent man, 
Who labours hard, still has his cellars filled, 
His larder an4 his. oil s^ore, and his house 
Is well equipped ; with pigs, and goats,, and lambs, 
Fowjs, milk, and cheese : and honey from the 

h$ve. 
Their garden too they caU, their ' second flitch/ 50 
And tlien the interest that these arouse \ 
Is further heightened in their leisure hours j 
By shooting and by hunting. Need I speak 
Of the greenery of the meadows, and the lines 
Of trees, the beauty of the vineyards,, and the 

groves 
Of olives? In a single word I ask 
Is aught more rich in use, more fair to see 
Than land well cultured? To enjoy its pharm 
Age does not hinder, rather it invites 
And lures you tp it. Where, I'd like to know, 
Would one's old years be better warmed by fire, 
Or sitting in the sun, or, if need be, 
Be cooled in turn by shade, and flowing stream ? 
Let who will keep their arms, their steeds, their 

spears, 
Their club and ball, and let them swim and run, 
But let them leave from many forms of sport 

50 In rural districts some bacon was salted for the farmer's 
use ; but his garden was his second flitch— something in reserve 
to cut at. 

36 



CiCEltb ON OLE* AGE 

The dice to us old men, or take them too 
If so they Will : old age ban db without 
These trifles, and enjoy full happiness. 

The works of Xenophori are useful books : XVII. 
Bead them with carte, as now I know you do. gyroa, his 
At what great length is agriculture praised lpve'of 

In that iil Which he speaks of managing gax&ening.. 

One's own affairs, the GEcbnb rhiciis ? 
That y0u may know hoiy worthy of a king 
He thinks this farming is, he there relates 
What Socrates once said to Critobulus : 
How Cyrus, the young Persian prince, renowned 
For intellect and his imperial rule, 
When once Lysahder, a distinguished man, 
Had come to Sardis, bringing gifts with him 
From his allies, he there most courteously 
Becei¥ed him, and with other things he showed 
A field he'd planted with the utmost care. 
And when Lysahder wondered at the height 
The trees had reached, so carefully arranged 
Like spots on dice, the soil so clear of weeds, 
So fully dug, the sweetly-scented flowers, 
He said 'twas not so much the diligence 
That he' admired, as 'twas the skill of him 
Who planned and laid it out ; the prince replied, 
*I did it all myself : these rows are mine, 
The plans are mine, and many of the trees 
Were planted by myself'; Lysahder then, 
Seeing the splendour with which he was clad, 
The purple robe", the gold; the many gems, 
Said, 'Well, indeed, I've heard that you are 

blessed, 
Whose lot's thus worthy of your character.' 

$1 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

This lot let old men prize: years don't impede 

Our studying many things, and most of all 

These rural tastes to the very end of life : 

Valerius Corvus, we have heard, pursued 

Them even when he had a hundred years : 

And six and forty years had intervened 

Between his first and latest consulship. 

The very term, our ancestors declared, 61 

At which old age began, was fully spent 

By him in office: yet his latest years 

Were happier than his prime, for he enjoyed 

More of authority, and less of toil. 

Authority is still the crown of age. 

How splendid was Csecilius Metellus! 

How great Atilius Calatinus, too, 

The man whose only epitaph was this, 

'By the people's vote, the first man in the 

State.' 53 
'Tis carved upon his tomb. He had indeed 
Wide influence, when such the verdict is 
That history gives. And what a man, again, 
Was Crassus, late High Pontiff, and not less 
His great successor, Lepidus? Why speak 
Of Paulus, Africanus, Maximus? 
Not by their speech, but by their very nod 
They ruled the Senate. Yes, old age has 

weight, 
Which crowned with honour far exceeds the 

bliss 
Which pleasure brings to youth. 

51 Old age was supposed to begin at sixty years. 

52 This was the inscription on his tomb near the Porta Capena. 
He distinguished himself in the Funic Wars. 

38 



age. 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

J But when I praise XVIII. 

Old age, remember that I mean the age Respect 

That has been trained in youth. For that is true paid to 
Which I once stated with consent of all, 
That age is wretched; which is still obliged 
To excuse itself. 'Tis not indeed white hairs 
And wrinkled brows^ that bring authority, 
But a life well spent in former years that reaps 
Great influence at the last. Ev'n little things 
That seem but trifles, these can show respect : 5:! 
To be saluted, to be widely sought, 
For men to make way for you, and to rise 
When you approach, to escort you on the way, 
And bring you back, to seek for your advice ; 
All these are used among ourselves, and those 
Whose culture is the highest. Thus it was 
Lysander, whom I named, was wont to say 
That Sparta was the honoured home of age : 
Nowhere was greater tribute paid to years, 
Nowhere was age respected more. Tis said 
At Athens once, an old man made his way 
To where the games were held : in all the crowd 
Not one gave way ; but when he came to Sparta, 
Ev'n the ambassadors, in special seats, 
All rose to welcome him. When they received 
A storm of cheers, a man remarked to them, 
' The Athenians know what's right, but do it not.' 
Much in our guild 6 * here is most excellent, 
But this is best, that he who has most years 

53 Cf. Shakespeare, Macbeth, v. 3 : 

' That which should accompany old age, 
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends.' 
51 The guild was the college of Augurs. 
39 



CICERO ON OLfc AGE 

Speakfe first, and that not only before those 
Who've keld a higher office, feiifc eVn those 
Who hold it iibW. What pleasures cail d8mpire 
With the Awards thus Waiting On bid age? 
The/ Who've enjoyed them Well, they seetn td me 
To haVe played life's drama to itB verV eldSe, 
Not like unpractised actors to h&vB failed 
At the last act. 

"tea, hut you say old men 
Are aye mdrose and fretful, angry too, 
And difficult to manage; if you choose, 
Add greedy. These are faults 6f dharactef , 
Alid not of years. And yet this fretfulness 
And the other faults I named have this excuse,. 
Net Valid, but yet Which may be advanced. 
They think they are despised, contemned and 

me&ked ; 

And When ydu're feeble, every offence 

More hateful is i yet all these things b&sonie 

By temper and htf management less hard, 

That you may Bee in life, as in the plaj? 

That's called the Bmhetis *» : What a difference 

Between the tWo; one harsh, severe, 

The other gracious, mild: just so things are: 

Nbt every Wine grows sOur by^ growing old. 

Severity in age is Weli fchdugh : 

But not tdd mUch, and faaught of bitterness. 

And as to greediness, I do not know 

What it ean mean. Cah aught be more absurd 

Than that as life draws to a close, we seek 

More money to assist our journey's end? 

M The Adelphi of Terence, in which two brothers are repre- 
sented—one from the country, the other from the town. 

46 



CICfcRO bN OLD AG$ 

A fdurth cause there retiraitas Which seeiils XIX. 
to fret 01d age 

And make our old age an&ious ; it id i8 n^ to 

The riear approach of death, Whifch caniiOt be death. 
So faf away t oh, miserable age 
That has not learned in a life prolonged 
That death's hot to bfe feared: if it destroy 
The mind, it surely may be quite ignored : 
But if it leads it to some other place 
Where it may live fOr ever, it should be 
Bather desired. There is no third Estate. 
Why 1 should I fear, if I should riot ekist? 
Or if I be mOre happy than before? 
Or who sO foolish, even in his youth, 
As to feel siire that he will live till eve? 
N&y, surely youth has far more ills than age 
That may cause death : more frequent its disease, 
More serious, arid iriore difficult to cure. 
Few reach old age : if that Were not the case, 
Men had been better, Wiser than they are. 
In old men, you will Arid more thought, more 

care, 
More method ; if it were not so, then States 
Had ne'er survived. Yes, but to come again 
To fear of early death. Is that the criine 
Imputed to old age? Youth fears it too. 
Ah, yes, I know it f rotri my own good son, 
As you from your own brothers, Scipio, do s 
Men marked for highest honours in the State. 
The young can die. But ybli Will say the young 
Have hope of life, which is to us denied. 
A foolish hope v For What more foolish is 
Than where no surety is to think things sure, 

41 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Where all is doubtful to believe them fixed? 
Granted the old man cannot even hope : 
Tis all the better since he has attained 
To what the young man only hopes to gain : 
The one desires long life, the other's lived. 
And yet, good heavens! what is 'long' in life? 
Take ev'n the longest: live, if so you will, 
As long as the Tartessian king himself, 
King Agathonius, as he was called; 66 
For he, I learn, at Gades held the throne 
For eighty years, and lived for forty more. 
Nothing seems long to me which has an end. 
When that arrives, the past is dead and gone : 
And that alone survives, which you have won 
By virtue and good deeds. Time flies, and days, 
And months, and years pass on : the past no 

more 
Returns, and of the future no man knows. 
Let each think what he has of life enough. 
Why ev'n the actor to secure applause 
Need not play to the end : if but he do 
His best, he will be cheered : if wise, he'll stop 
Before he reach the final 'Plaudite' 67 
A little time's enough, in which to. live 
A good and honest life. If more you have, 

66 The story of Agathonius, the King of Tartessus, is told in 
Herod, i. 163. Gades is Cadiz. Some put his age at one hundred 
and forty. 

57 'Plaudite' was the formal ending in Latin comedies. So 
Horace, Art poet. 155 : 

' Sessuri cantor donee vos Plaudite dicat.' 
Cicero speaks in the spirit of the closing words of the Meditations 
of Marcus Antoninus : ' But,' says the actor, ' I have not gone 
through the five acts; I have only done three.' . . . 'Go away 
content, for he who dismisses you is so.' 

42 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

You need not grieve more than the farmer 

does, 
When the sweet Spring-time's passed, if there 

arrive 
The summer and the autumn in their turn. 
Spring represents our youth, and indicates 
The harvest that will follow : later years 
Are used to reap and gather in the crop. 
The harvest "of old age, as "oft I've said, 
Is the remembrance and the plenteous store 
Of blessings won.. And all that nature does 
Must be accounted good. What can be more 
According to her plan, than tha£ the old 
Should die? v Death even comes to youth itself, 
Against its will and wish. To theni it comes 
It seems to me, as when a fire is quenched 
By streams of water : to the old it comes 
As when a fire, dies slowly down itself; 68 
Just so the apples, when unripe, are torn 
With violence from the boughs : if ripe with 

age 
They gently fall : and so the life of youth 
Is taken by some violent attack; 
The old man's troublous age comes gently to 

an end. 
To me this seems so pleasant, that I feel 

58 Sir W. Scott in one of the passages from an old play in The 
Antiquary which, when he could not find one to his taste, he wrote 
himself, has another metaphor to the same end : 

' Life ebbs from such old age unmarked and silent : 
On the slow, majestic waves yon stranded ship, 
Each wave receding, shakes it less and less, 
Till, bedded in the sand, it shall remain 
Useless and motionless.' 

43 



fclfcteEo On OLb AgS 

The nearer that I di-aW towards the end, 69 
I sight the land, and see before my eyes 
The harbbiifr Waiting to receive the bark 
Which long has voyaged on the toilsome sea. 
XX. All ages have their term ; old age has hone ; 

Neither Enough if you but Use it rightly still, 
seek nor ^ n< * ^° your duty in the post you fill, 

fear death. ^ na hb&6 nb fear of death. And so it is 
That age" i§ bolder and more confident 
Than youth itself. Thus Sdloh once repUM 
To oiie Whb asked him What made him so strong, 
"Tis my* old age.' That end of life is best, 
When With the mind and senses unimpaired, 
Nature undoes the Work that she has made, 
Just as a ship or building is destroyed 
By thbse Who made them With the grfeatfer eftse ; 
So Nature that has made our frame, itself 
^^More easily takes it down. A building heW 
Is hardly rent asunder, but When old 
It falls With ease. The little span of life 
[That now remains must not be grasped bf us 
With eager longing, nbr yet laid aside 
Without some thought. Pythagoras has said 
We must not leave our station in the ranks, 
The fort we hold, except at God's command, 
Who is our leader. Solon too was wise, 

__ Whose epitaph declares he did not wish 

His death to lack the sorrow of his friends 

59 Cicero himself seems to have acted on this feeling. In one 
of his later letters (May, 44 b.c.) he writes : ' Brutus seems to 
think of retiring into exile. For ray part I, look to another haven 
which lies handier to my time of life : all I wish is that 1 could 
reach it, leaving Brutus in prosperity and the Republic re- 
established.' 

44 



CICERO ON OLD AQE 

And their sad tears ; *° he still desired their lava. 
Yet Ennius perhaps is wiser still; 
' Let none with tears nay funeral adorn : 
No loud lamentings, when my corse is borne.' 
For death he thought was not a cause for grief, 
When immortality awaits, us there. 
Of course an old man feels the sense of dying, 
,But 'tis but for a little time : and then 
Our feeling altogether disappears,, 
Or else 'tis something pleasant that we feej. 
Yet youth should still take care betimes to learn 
That death should not be feared ; if 'tis not so, 
We cannot have a quiet, tranquil mind. 
Tis sure that death must come : perhaps to-day, 
But if we live in constant dread of it, 
Whose mind can he in peace ? Upon this, point 
I need not waste my words, when I recall 
The case of Brutus 61 dying for the State: 
The Decii 62 who spurred their horses on 
And courted death: nor Regulus 63 himself 

80 The original is given in Plutarch : 

fiijli jioi aiiKavoToe Bavaros /toXoi, dKKi <pi\ouriv 
naWeiwoi/ii 9avu>v akyta Kai arovaxag. 
' Ah, may my death be not unwept : for long \ 

May tears and sorrow dwell my friends among.' 

61 Junius Brutus, who died fighting against the Tarquins in the 
early days of Rome. He had previously put his two sons to death 
for wishing to restore the monarchy. 

62 Decius and his son both sacrificed their lives, the one in 
the war against the Latins at Vesuvius (340 B.C.); the qther at 
Sentinum (295 B.C.). 

63 M. Atilius Regulus, who was taken. prisoner by the Car- 
thaginians, and sent to Rome to offer peace on condition of 
returning to his enemies if unsuccessful. Cf. Hor. Odes, iii. 5 ■ 

' Full well he knew he must abide 
' The savage captor's torturing wrath ; 
Vet none the less, he thrust aside 
Obstructing kin, and all that barred his path.' 

45 



CICERO ON OtD AGE 

Who rather than his plighted word should fail 

Invited torture: nor the Scipios 

Who with their bodies chose to bar the advance 

Of the Carthaginian host: nor Lucius Paullus, 6 * 

Your grandfather, who with his life atoned 

His colleague's rashness in the great defeat 

At Cannae we sustained: nor yet again 

Marcellus, whom not ev'n the cruellest foes 

Refused to bury with becoming rites : 

And see our armies : oft as I have said, 

They take their stand with brave and gallant 

hearts, 
At posts from which they know they won't 

return. 
What this, which younger men can thus despise, 
Unlearned and ignorant, shall we who're old 
Intently dread, with all our learning too? 
To put it in a word, it seems to me 
'Tis weariness of all pursuits that makes 
A weary age. We have pursuits as boys, 
Do young men want them? Others yet there are 
Suited to growing years, are they required 
By those who've reached what's termed 'the 

middle age'? 
That too enjoys its own, but are they fit 
For us old men? We have our own of course, 
And as the others end, just so do ours, 
And when it happens, weariness of life 

01 Paullus died at the battle of Cannse. Horace says, Od. i. 12 : 
' Faulus, of his life 
So lavish in the Funic strife.' 
He refused to fly when he might have done so. M. Marcellus, 
Consul, fell into an ambuscade near Tarentum in the second 
Funic War, and was buried by Hannibal, whose inhuman cruelty 
was a commonplace with Roman writers. 

46 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Proclaims that ripeness which precedes our death. 

Nor do I see why I should not declare XXI. 

My feeling as to death : the nearer 'tis, Cato's own 

The more distinctly I can see its face. nope f or 

I verily believe, dear friends, your sires tie future. 

Are living still — the only life which counts. 
For while enclosed within this mortal frame, 
Our work is done with something of a strain, 
Imposed by fate: and the celestial soul, 
Sunk from its high estate and plunged in earth, 
Is fated here to live, a place opposed 
To its divine, immortal quality. 
I take it, the Eternal Gods have sent 
These souls to fill our bodies, that there might 
Be some to watch on earth who, having seen 
What order reigns in heaven, might introduce 
Like method and like constancy below. 
Nor is it only reason thus inclines 
And argument to give me this belief, 
But the wide fame and great authority 
Of all the best philosophers I know: 
I used to hear Pythagoras 66 and his school, 
Natives of Italy, at least in name, 
Declare unfalteringly, that we had souls 
Distilled from the divine intelligence. 

69 Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher, born about 580 b.c, 
who in the end established himself and his followers at Crotona 
in the south of Italy. He believed in the transmigration of souls, 
and devoted himseif to the moral reform of society. He believed 
in one God— eternal, unchangeable, ruling all things ; that the 
soul was a harmony, that the body was its prison in which it was 
disciplined for a divine life after death, Mr. Warde Fowler, in his 
Religious Experience of the Romans, speaks of the change that took 

?lace in Cicero's views under his distress at the death of his darling 
'ullia (pp. 388-9). 

47 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

And there was shown to me the fine discourse 
Which Socrates, the wisest man that lived, 
According to Apollo's oracle, 66 
Pronounced upon the last day that he lived, 
Regarding souls, thejr immortality. 
Need J say more? |Jy firm belief it is, 61 
Since there is such a njmbleness in souls. 
Such power to recall the past, to see beyond, 
Such wondrous skill, such knowledge to invent, 
The nature which contains them cannot be 
Destined to death : nor yet can they themselves 
Always in action, by their own impulse, 
E'er cease to move according as they will. 
And yet again, the nature of the soul 

M The story is told in Plato's Apology of Socrates. The oracle, 
when consulted, said: 

' Sophocles is wise : Euripides wiser still : 
But wisest by far is Socrates.' 
Milton writes (Parodist Regained, iv. 2TS) : 

' Whom well inspired the oracle pronounced 
Wisest of men.' 
67 Phcedo of Plato. The argument which follows is based on 
that in the discourse which describes the death of Socrates — an 
attempt, as Milton says, 

'To unsphere 
The spirit of Plato; to unfold 
What worlds or what vast regions hold 
The immortal mind that hath forsook 
Her mansion in this fleshly nook.' 

II Penseroso, 88-93. 
Addison, in his tragedy of Cato, writes (Act v., Sc. 1): 
' It must be so— Plato, thou reasonest well, 
Else whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire, 
This longing after immortality? 
Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror 
Of falling into naught ? Why shrinks the soul 
Back on herself and startles at destruction ? 
'Tis the divinity that stirs within us : 
'Tis heaven itself that points out an hereafter, 
And intimates eternity to man.' 

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CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Is of one character, has nothing mixed, 

Unequal or unlike itself, and so it conies 

It cannot he divided, cannot die. 

Again, 'tis clear that men know many things 

Before their birth, for boys you often see, 

In studies that are difficult, attain 

Such knowledge of them with such headlong 

speed, 
That needs must be they've known it all before, 
And but recall them from their memories. 
And this indeed was Plato's argument. 

Once more, in Xenophon we find described XXII. 
How Cyrus spoke upon his dying bed : Cyma on 

"Think not, my sons, when I depart from you, the -oul 
That I shall nothing be, be nowhere found. 
While I was with you, you ne'er saw my soul, 
But from the things I did, you knew 'twas there ; 
So now believe that I am still the same, 
Although unseen. The honours that are paid 
To our great men would not survive their death, 
If 'twere not that their souls had something done 
To keep their memory green. I can't believe 
That souls, when in our mortal bodies, live, 
But leaving it they die ; nor yet that they 
Do then become as unintelligent 
As is the body which they leave behind. 
Oh, no ; when they are freed from this vile clod, 
And have put on their spotless purity, 
Then wisdom comes. Now when our mortal 

frame 
Dissolves in death, you easily can see 
How all its elements depart, how all 
Return but to the dust from which they came : 

49 k 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

The soul you cannot see, nor here, nor there, 
Nothing is more alike to death than sleep. 
And when men sleep the soul gives evidence 
That it's divine: for when it's free to move, 
Left to itself, it sees what lies before, 
Hence you can gather what it will become 
When it has shaken off these mortal chains. 
If this be so, then treat me as a God: 
But if the soul dies when the body dies, 
Yet still do you, from reverence of the Gods, 
Who watch and rule this beauteous world of 

ours, 
Still keep my memory aye intact and green.' 
XXIII. ' Thus Cyrus, on his deathbed. Now for home. 
Fame ^° one ^ u ever make me to believe, 
spnra ns on. Scipio, that those great heroes of the past, 
The members of your family, and the rest 
Had dared such deeds, as live for evermore 
In the memories of men, had they not thought 
The future did belong to them as well. 
Think you (that I about myself may boast, 
As old men do), I'd ever have endured 
Such toil by day and night, at home, abroad, 
If the same term which closed my life, should 

close 
My glory too? 68 Had it not better been 
To lead a quiet, indolent old age, 
No bother and no strife? Yes, but my soul, 
Raising itself, I know not how, foresaw 
That in the future, when it left this life, 

48 Cf. Milton, Lycidas . 

* Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise 
To scorn delights and live laborious days.' 

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CICERO ON OLD AGE 

Its life would then begin. Had it not been 

That immortality belonged to souls, 

The souls of great men never would have sought 

The glory that's immortal. Wise men die 

With greatest readiness, and fools with least. 

And don't you think the soul, which further sees 

And sees more clearly, knows there is beyond 

A brighter world, to which it wings its way? 

Not so the soul that's duller. For. myself 

I long to see your father, whom I loved 

And treasured here: nor those alone I knew, 

But all the men of whom I've heard, and read, 

And written, too. And therefore when I start 

Upon my voyage, none shall keep me back, 

Or boil me as another Pelias. 69 

Nay, if some God should offer to me now 

Once more to be a boy, and shed sad tears 

Within my cradle, I'd refuse the gift. 

Nor do I wish, my course being fully run, 

To leave the winning for the starting post. 

/What good in life? rather how much of toil? 

Yet still if good there be, whate'er it is 

There is a limit to it, there succeeds. 

A natural weariness. I do not wish 

Like many learned men to run down life. 

I don't regret that I have lived, because 

I've lived, I hope, that I may well believe 

I have not lived in vain. I now depart 

" Pelias, son of Poseidon, brother of Mson, was the ruler of 
Iolcos, which rightfully belonged to Mson and his son Jason. 
jEson when old had, according to Ovid, been successfully treated 
by Medea, who boiled him to renew his youth. She afterwards 
persuaded Pelias' daughters to attempt the same experiment on 
their father — this time {without result. I give one or two 'lines 

51 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

As from a lodging house, and not a home. 
Nature has made this world a place in which 
One stays a little, does not dwell for aye. 

glorious day, when I shall go to meet 
That blest assembly of the souls above, 
And leave the filth, the bustle of the world. 

1 go to meet not those alone I've named, 
But my dear Catq, best of sons to me, 

A better man, more pious, never lived, 
Whose corse I burned ; it would have been more 

fit 
If he'd burned mine — ah, yes. But his great soul, 
Not leaving me, but ever looking back, 
Has gone where he discerned that I would go. 
I seemed to bear it bravely: not because 

of Sandys' translation of Ovid's Metamorphose*, where the story 
is told. Medea is speaking to the daughters: 

' Then wherefore stand ye doubting thus, like fools,' Medea said ; 
' Oh, draw your swordes, and let ye out his old blood that I 

may 
Fill up his empty veins again with youthful blood straightway. 
Your father's life is in your hands : it lieth now in you 
To have him old and withered still, or young and lustie too. 
If any nature in ye be, and that ye do not feede 
A fruitless hope, your duty to your father doe with speede.' 
Cicero seems to have confused the cases. It was JEson who was 
boiled and rejuvenated. 
' His leane, pale, bare, and withered corse grew fulsome fair 

and fresh. 
His furrowed wrinkles were fulfilled with young and lusty flesh ; 
His limmes waxt frolicksome and lithe ; at which he wonder- 
ing much 
Remembered that at forty years he was the same or such.' 
Medea thus describes her power: 
' By charms I make the calm seas rough, and make the rough 

sea plain. 
And cover all the sky with clouds, and chase them thence again. 
Nor have I neede of herbes that can, by virtue of their juice. 
To flowery prime of lusty youth, old, withered age reduce.' 

62 



CICERO ON OLD AGE 

I did not feel it : I consoled myself 

By thinking that the time could not be long 

Ere I must go, and parting be no more. 

Well, Scipio (for I think you said that you 

Expressed the same surprise as Lselius), 

Tis thus old age sits very light on me, 

Not only not a burden, but a joy. 

But if in thinking souls immortal thus, 

I am in error, I confess to you, 

It is an error that I „ glory in, 

And being so pleasant, I would not desire 

To lose it while I live : but if when dead, 

As some philosophers of little note 70 

Believe, I feel no more, there is no fear 

These dead philosophers should mock me there. 

And even if we should not be immortal, 

Still it is well that, at the fitting time, 

We all should disappear. Nature has laws 

Affecting life as well as other things. 

Age is the end of life, as of a play: 71 

We should avoid the weariness that comes, 

The more, if we've enjoyed it to the full. 

And this is all I have to say of age. 

May you both reach it, and experience show, 

That you have found that what I've said is true. 

70 In the Tutculan Disputations, i. 28, he speaks of philosophers 
who differ from Plato and Socrates as ' plebeii philosophic 

" The comparison of life to a play upon the stage is common. 
There is in the Greek Anthology in McKail's collection the 
following : 

' Life is a stage, a game, 

Which all must learn to play : 
To lay your sorrows all aside. 
Or bear them as you may.' 



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